Public records belong to the public September 18, 2006
(From Editorial Staff at the Knoxville News Sentinel)
records should not be this hard.
The new mayor of Loudon County, as one of his first official acts in
office, set strict guidelines and hefty fees for those who wish to
obtain public records from his office.
Mayor Doyle Arp has found a pretty useful way to deal with his
opponents: He's going to charge them $25, plus 25 cents a page for any
copies of county documents. If it takes longer than an hour for Arp's
staff to research the request for a public document, each additional
hour will cost another $25. And there's the form that has to be filled
If Arp's new policy doesn't violate the letter of the law, it certainly
violates the intent. He is clear that it's aimed at discouraging
requests for public documents.
Arp says a small group of county residents, including many who are
unhappy with the results of the latest election, repeatedly has made
requests for county records. He says the new policy is in response to
the requests for information from what he calls the Triple A Club -
Always Against Anything.
In this case, he seems to believe the members of the so-called club are
against him. So he's going to make public records difficult to obtain.
"They had been walking into different county offices and demanding to
see records," Arp said. "They're just being nosy."
Whatever Arp wishes to call it, public records are just that - documents
that belong to the public. That means the public can ask to see them. It
may be nosy, but it's also a right.
Although Tennessee courts have ruled that public officials can charge
fees for copying public records, local governments cannot charge fees
for someone to look at a public record. Further, they can't charge for
the time employees spend helping people look at public records. And,
when they charge fees for copying documents, those fees must reasonably
reflect the actual costs for making the copies.
Arp said that requests for information from members of a small group
have kept county employees from doing their jobs.
"We've got a county to run," Arp said. "We aren't running a babysitting
Arp is newly elected, and perhaps he does not yet understand the nature
of his duties as a county mayor. First and foremost, he works for the
people of his county, even if they are making requests that annoy him.
Government is the people's business. Its records belong to the people
and should be available to the people. They pay the bills through their
taxes, and they hire the employees through the process of elections.
"We don't have the time to do this," Arp said.
We suggest he find the time - it's his job.
Do you agree?
"The question becomes - what is he afraid voters will find?"
September 19, 2006, 11:26 AM
"Mayor Arp directed commissioners at today?s workshop meeting, to shred
public records to keep citizens from viewing these records."
September 19, 2006, 12:17 AM
"How long will people put up with Arps Bull? Time to stand up and be
September 19, 2006, 12:09 AM
"Arp and his Liberal friends need to just GO AWAY!!!"
September 18, 2006, 10:12 PM
"kinda reminds me of little hitler you had in knoxville"
September 18, 2006, 7:56 PM
"I am a Loudon County resident and am outraged."
September 18, 2006, 6:44 PM
"This Arp needs the Double-C Club: Civility and Civics."
September 18, 2006, 5:49 PM
"Another GOPer who hates accountability and free speech. Why does NS
September 18, 2006, 5:42 PM
"Sounds to me like Mayor Arp has lots to hide if he wants to keep Loudon
County records a secret from taxpayers. Sounds like taxation without
representation to me!"
September 18, 2006, 5:15 PM
"Loudon County and the federal government have the same problem, a
little Napoleon in office."
September 18, 2006, 4:01 PM
"The people of Loudon County had an opportunity to elect an intelligent
and well qualified mayor, but they chose to stick with good old boy
politics as usual."
September 18, 2006, 3:38 PM
"News Sentinel should test this itself with a request for records and
then sue him over the charges."
September 18, 2006, 3:21 PM
"A couple of weeks in office and already his Highness is a major
embarrassment to Loudon County."
September 18, 2006, 2:05 PM
"Mr. Arp should be held accountable to the citizens that elected him.
What is he hoping to hide?"
September 18, 2006, 1:46 PM
"As observed in his first commision meeting Mr. Arp has declared himself
September 18, 2006, 1:38 PM
"Those of us who know how Mr. Arp works are not surprised at this. It
would be a good idea for all citizens to watch what is going on behind
September 18, 2006, 1:31 PM
"As a resident of Loudon Co. - & not a member of crowd Mayor Arp call
AAA, I still find your comments to be right on."
September 18, 2006, 12:52 PM
"He should just call anyone wanting to see public records a traitor and
accuse them of aiding the terrorist"
September 18, 2006, 12:30 PM
"Must be eating bagged spinach in Loudon Co."
September 18, 2006, 11:16 AM
"Mr. Arp is taking on way more responsibility than his new title gives.
Sounds like he does not want to work for the citizens of Loudon
September 18, 2006, 10:52 AM
"Did this paper endorse Hutchinson for Sheriff when he withholds public
September 18, 2006, 10:26 AM
"Apparently Mr. Arp thinks he is the Loudon County dictator. Is this man
September 18, 2006, 10:18 AM
"Could Arp just declare the records "classified" by reason of "Loudon
County security"? And declare any fiscally sensitive information "off
September 18, 2006, 9:56 AM
"This is really and civil liberties isssue."
September 18, 2006, 8:32 AM
"The KNS is mighty selective in whose records it wants."
September 18, 2006, 8:15 AM
"I think its legal to pass the cost on, but the public should be allowed
to search the records"
September 18, 2006, 7:27 AM
"The Development Corp of Knox has denied public records to the people
opposing the proposed Midway Industrial Park - show us the options!"
September 18, 2006, 7:11 AM
"He is violating the law. It ought to be tested. This is really wrong."
September 18, 2006, 1:24 AM
"The state legislature should put a cap on excessive fees for copies of
September 18, 2006, 12:39 AM